ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Oct. 5, 2008) -- Chris Baloga kept his game together with a closing-round 1-over-par 73 and won the 102nd Middle Atlantic Amateur championship with a 72-hole total of 288 (71-74-70-73) at Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, Va. on Sunday, October 5th. Baloga was three shots clear of runner-up Dan Hurley, who posted 72-73-74-72--291.
Baloga, from Baltimore and a first-time entry in the event, began the day with a four-stroke lead, then reeled off 15 pars in his round, forcing his closest pursuers to make birdies if they wanted to catch him. As it developed, Hurley, a graduate of George Mason University, was the only one within two shots of the leader all day.
Hurley birdies at the first two holes closed the gap, but when Baloga birdied the par-3 ninth, he turned with a five-stroke margin. There was a two-shot swing at the 12th that brought Hurley, from Leesburg, Va. and Loudoun Golf & CC, and third a year ago, back to within two, but Baloga parred out and Hurley gave back another stroke at the 18th.
Former Loyola College teammates claimed the next two places, as Chris Derby, US Amateur qualifier from Alexandria, Va. and Army-Navy Country Club, posted 80-72-70-72--294, and Maryland Amateur champion Michael Mulieri, Silver Spring, Md. and TPC-Avenel, 75-74-73-73-295.
Terry Burke (82-70-75-70), from Bethesda, had the low round of the day, 70 (his second such score of a tournament where only one player broke 70), and tied for fifth with William Smith (74-72-75-76) and Pat Tallent (74-72-74-77) at 297. 2007 runner-up at Congressional, Vance Welch, finished eighth with 72-74-77-74--298. Play was over a wonderfully renovated layout with fast greens that played at 6,875 yards to a par of 72.
"Going into the last round, I pretty much knew if I played well, it would be tough for somebody to beat me," Baloga, 25, said. "I was out there trying to increase my lead instead of just holding on. My goal was to beat him [Hurley] and the rest would take care of itself. The way it turned out, he only beat me by one. He played well."
The former Towson golfer also had been in contention earlier in the summer, as he won the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play title via a playoff and the Frederick City Amateur by nine strokes. Hurley thought he might have a chance at the 16th if he could birdie the 525-yard, par-5, but he wound up settling for a par.
Denny McCarthy, 15, a Georgetown Prep sophomore from Burtonsville, won the event's first Junior trophy with 75-73-74-77--299, and a tie for ninth with Scott Shingler (73-75-72-79).
The tournament had beautiful weather all four days, especially the last three when it was sunny and mild, with little or no wind. This marked the third year of what is becoming a tradition of having a walking Rules official with each group all four days. It is recognized as the nation's only non-USGA championship event where this is done throughout play of such a substantial event and the only 72-hole stroke play competiton in the game that features such Rules coverage. Executive Committee and Rules Committee Members of the Middle Atlantic GA, Maryland State GA, Virginia State Golf Association, Washington Metropolitan GA, Middle Atlantic and Met New York Section GA, Women's District of Columbia GA, Pennsylvania GA and the United States GA, as well as staffers from the USGA, formed the 60-person Rules Team.
-Reported by John Stewart from Belle Haven CC.